Key words: Applied drama, children’s theatre where children perform for children within a professional framework, social relations, young participants, audience focus vs. child- and participant focus, paternalistic egalitarianism.
I am writing in an ongoing project between NTNU and Rogaland Theatre’s children and youth theatre (BUT). The aim of this research cooperation is to strengthen the activity at BUT and give others insight into the model. In this project it is also desirable to present recommendations for future activities. I have chosen to focus on the child as a participant, and seek to ask whether this theatre work is significant for the children. Is the child in focus? Should Rogaland Theatre profit off of children? Is a professionalization a hindrance for the child’s theatre craft and creative development, or is it an advantage? On whose terms are BUT’s productions made? With these research questions as a basis my thesis question for the entire project is What is a significant theatre production for children today? By significant I mean something current, satisfactorily and relevant. I define children as young people between the ages of 7 and 14.
I use qualitative method and my epistemological perspective is constructivist epistemology. My empirical data is interviews, observations, and documents. I look at the production Kardemomme by as an example to be able to answer my thesis question, as this production is a typical example of what Rogaland Theatre has staged for children in the last decade. I have interviewed 16 informants; 4 leaders and 12 children, observed stage rehearsals, seen the performance, and been present behind the scenes during the performance.
I seek my theoretical perspectives within applied theatre, more specifically what reform pedagogics brought of drama theories in the American, the Scandinavian, and the British tradition. I also look at the views of children prior to and after the introduction of reform pedagogics. Further, I enter into modern research within drama and theatre work with children. As I look at the child as a participant I also seek theories in sociological research concerning the children of today and the various present views on the child.
To be able to describe the practice BUT moves within I want to use a concept Heidi Haukelien introduced in her evaluation of DUS – the young scene (2007). She places the DUS project in a paternalistic egalitarianistic tradition. This tradition is characterised by a compromise, which has happened, within the theatres, between these to completely contradictory extremities. The tradition is a balance between elitism, hierarchy, and democracy. On the one hand an understanding of artistic knowledge is brought from the elite and to others here children and youth. On the other hand, DUS (here BUT) shall be open for everyone who wants to participate.
With the contract, my thesis question, my empirical data, and theoretical perspectives as a starting point, I find in my analysis that BUT has challenges when it comes to moving within paternalistic egalitarianism. The children I have interviewed say sincerely that they are doing very good. The management express that they would very much like to be centered on children and democratic, but due to system reasons they have to choose a repertoire and a production model which does not put the child’s way of being and level of competence at the centre. I see clear challenges by having child amateurs in a professional theatre. By being conscious their focus and views on children, for one thing, future children’s theatre production at BUT, and other institution theatre, can be even more significant for today’s children.
2011. , 155 p.